Every issue of the Wall Street Journal is filled with stories of innovation… primarily companies trying to "innovate" their way out of competitive disadvantage. Most of the time these companies believe that some remarkable "innovation" will offset their dysfunctional internal cost situation, and perhaps coupled with following the lemmings to the overseas low labor cost nirvana du jour they can finally "compete on an even playing field." Of course that will never work.
A company that has high internal cost will never be competitive with a company that has significantly reduced the waste of its internal processes. It will not be as agile, it will not be able to respond to rapid changes in market conditions or disruptive technologies, and it will be consigned to investing in an endless series of new factories as it chases low labor costs around the globe. These supposed "competitiveness burdens" are a figment of myopic misfocus, as proven time and time again by companies that compete and succeed in the U.S…. like Toyota, Danaher, Parker-Hannifin, and Texas Nameplate.
Those innovation-focused companies may have even more to worry about. What if a company has successfully created a significant operational cost and agility advantage by leaning its internal processes… and has also figured out how develop new products and innovations in record time with much lower investment? A double whammy, and the traditional companies might as well head for the showers.
Ronald Mascitelli of Technology Perspectives has been working in the "lean product development" area for many years. He’s a recognized expert that gave a great workshop at last month’s AME conference in Dallas. In 2004 he published the Lean Design Guidebook, and he has just come out with the Lean Product Development Guidebook.
This latest book discusses typical project selection, prioritization, and management… but then adds the lean component. Transitioning from traditional development silos to gates to how continuous flow can be applied to new product development. Knowledge management, organizational learning, and manufacturability from a lean perspective. And even more lean… visual project management and the concept of value, value streams, and the intolerance of waste. Some of those concepts create unique opportunities for product development, and companies that have implemented them have seen 50% reductions in launch schedules and significant increases in gross margins.
The book will be a great addition to the lean body of knowledge, but to really learn the concepts you have a unique opportunity coming up in two weeks. Mr. Mascitelli will be presenting a two-day workshop in conjunction with the Association for Manufacturing Excellence, in San Antonio from December 4th-5th. Go to the AME events website to learn more or to register. I’d encourage you to at least check it out… it could be a few hundred bucks very well spent. And no, we don’t get a kickback! We just feel it’s important.
Or you could spend those two days thinking about how you’re going to compete with companies that bring new products to market in half the time it takes you.